Purpose: Belief is a major aspect of every human being, especially in critical situations. We aimed to investigate if physicians think that religion should be implemented in the communication and/or management of the critical patient. We assessed their opinion about the need to have spiritual figures among the healthcare team in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Methods: An anonymous 30-question survey was conducted over a period of 7 months among health care providers in 174 different institutions around 40 different countries. The Questionnaire addressed religion and how it may affect the management and/or interaction with patients. Specifically, we inquired if the presence of a religious figure (e.g. Rabbi, Priest/Pastor, Imam, etc.) would enhance the communication and/or management of the patients.
Results: Of the 10,106 surveys that were submitted, 30.6% (n=3092) were physicians, 22.4% (n=2262) were nurses, and the rest were medical students and other health care providers. The opinions on the impact on managing patients and communicating with them and their families in the presence of a spiritual authority, such as a Pastor, Priest, Rabbi, Imam or any other religious figure, as part of the ICU team, revealed that 47.9% (n=1480) of physicians thought it could be beneficial, 14% (n=433) said that it could be harmful, and 36.6% (n=1131) affirmed no impact. Regarding nurses, 51.4% (n=1163) indicated that it is beneficial, 10.1% (n=228) indicated that it is harmful, and 35.6% (n=806) think there is no impact. Of the physicians, 20.3% (n=628) of practicing members of a religion, 16.7% (n=519) of those who are believers but not practicing, 7.8% (n=242) of those spiritual but not religious, 2.1% (n=65) of those who do not believe in god or gods, consider that religious figures incorporated in the ICU team can improve patient outcome. While 26.0% (n=557) of nurses who are practicing members, 20.3% (n=435) of those who are believers but not practicing, and only 1% (n=116) of the other two categories (the spiritual but not religious and the non-believers) share the same opinion, p <0.001.
Conclusions: One in every two physicians/nurses in this study considered spiritual authorities, as part of the ICU team, beneficial in managing the patients and communicating with them and their families. We also found a correlation between the religious practice of the physicians/nurses and their opinion about its impact on the care of the patients. Physicians who are committed to a religious practice, tend to state that this could be beneficial; while nurses who are spiritual but not religious indicated no impact on the management.